Mr. Cogito And The Imagination

Poem By Zbigniew Herbert

Mr. Cogito never trusted
tricks of the imagination

the piano at the top of the Alps
played false concerts for him

he didn't appreciate labyrinths
the Sphinx filled him with loathing

he lived in a house with no basement
without mirrors of dialectics

jungles of tangled images
were not his home

he would rarely soar
on the wings of metaphor
and then he fell like Icarus
into the embrace of the Great Mother

he adored tautologies
explanations
idem per idem

that a bird is a bird
slavery means slavery
a knife is a knife
death remains death

he loved
the flat horizon
a straight line
the gravity of the earth

Comments about Mr. Cogito And The Imagination

Knowing how the Nazis used words to hide meaning, knowing with certainty 'a knife is a knife' is crucial in the service of truth. We live in an era where words again are more smokescreens than beacons for meaning.
Mr. Cogito was rather a boring person, wasn't he? As Rajnish Manga says, he would never have been a poet!
Mr Cogito's dislike for a world full of imagination is sure to debar him to become a poet or the merchant of dreams. Look at these magical lines which are so adorable: the piano at the top of the Alps / played false concerts for him. My heart goes out to the composer of this wonderful poem.


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Other poems of HERBERT

The Envoy Of Mr Cogito

Go where those others went to the dark boundary
for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize

go upright among those who are on their knees

Report From The Besieged City

Too old to carry arms and fight like the others -

they graciously gave me the inferior role of chronicler
I record - I don't know for whom - the history of the siege

I Would Like To Describe

I would like to describe the simplest emotion
joy or sadness
but not as others do
reaching for shafts of rain or sun

A Ballad That We Do Not Perish

Those who sailed at dawn
but will never return
left their trace on a wave--

Pebble

The pebble
is a perfect creature

equal to itself